Robert Porwoll


Visiting Assistant Professor in Religion

I was born in Saint Paul (MN) but have moved around a bit, living mostly in Saint Louis (MO), in Moscow (Russian Federation), and recently in Chicago (IL). I am very glad to be back in Minnesota, where I still have many friends and family and am delighted to be starting my first year at Gustavus.

My work focuses on the evolution of the liberal arts traditions in education. Starting from Greek and Roman education (paideia), I began working on Hellenistic adaptations by Philo of Alexandria, by ancient Christian writers and Church Fathers, in particular Augustine, Basil of Caesarea, and Boethius. My work extends into modernity with Renaissance Humanism, the Reformation revisions of university curricula, the emergence of the Humboldtian research unviersity, and reformulations of humanistic models of education (in John Henry Newman and others).

My studies at the Divinity School at the University of Chicago focused upon the great transformation of learning in European schools in the twelfth-century, as the universities were emerging and the liberal arts were being reformulated. My dissertation (Parisian Pedagogies: The Educational Debates of Peter Abelard, Hugh of Saint-Victor, Peter Lombard, and John of Salisbury, 2019) examined the debated between four giants of the schools of Paris whose pedagogical thought and legacy reverberated through the unversities of the Middle Ages.

More recently, I undertook work to write on the pedagogical tensions at play at the University of Chicago, between John Dewey's followers, Charles H Judd, and the Great Books' proposals of Robert Maynard Hutchinson and Mortimer Adler.

Dedication to studying the liberal arts tradition goes hand in hand with commitment to excellence in teaching. Religion and religious experience are near universal human realities and I hold that no education can be considered humanistic that does not grapple with this central element of global history and thought.

My wife and I live in North Mankato with our four daughters. We enjoy reading, using our fire pit, reading, running, swimming, canoeing, and watching movies or online tv.


BA, Saint Louis University (Philosophy, History; Theological Studies); MA, Saint Louis University (Historical Theology); PhD, University of Chicago (History of Christianity)

Courses Taught

REL-132 (Religion & Ecology) and REL-247 (How to Be Happy)

Synonym Title Times Taught Terms Taught
REL-132 Religion & Ecology 10 2022/FA, 2022/SP, 2021/FA, 2021/SP, and 2020/FA
REL-123 Faith, Religion, and Culture 3 2023/JN, 2022/JN, and 2021/JN
REL-253 Science and Religion 3 2022/FA, 2021/SP, and 2020/FA
REL-212 Christian Theologies 2 2022/SP and 2021/FA